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Toddler Listening Skills

by Stacey Chaloux

Listening is a skill that your toddler needs to practice as it develops. It is important for your toddler to learn how to listen in order to become a good reader, a good speaker and to understand what people are saying to him. Teaching him how to listen can help him develop better language and social skills, too.

How Listening Develops

According to Marsha Newstat, an early childhood developmental specialist with A Place of Our Own, babies begin hearing language in the womb. As they grow, that hearing develops into listening when they begin to interpret and understand what is being said. Your baby began to learn about language by watching your facial expressions and listening to your tone and inflection. As a toddler, he will continue to develop listening skills by interacting with you and with other children. Your toddler will begin to link certain words with their meanings and respond to your questions, showing that he is learning to listen.

Listening Games

Toddlers learn best when they are involved in activities they enjoy doing. Playing games with your little one can be an effective way to get him to practice his developing listening skills. Play games such as Simon says, in which he has to follow a direction you give. Start with something simple such as "Touch your nose" or "Pat your knees." As his listening comprehension improves, call out a direction such as, "Wave your hands high in the air as fast as you can." This will help him learn about body parts, direction words and words that describe. Take this listening game outside and give him directions on how to ride his tricycle or where to run in the yard.

Singing and Reading

According to the Center for Early Literacy Learning, when you give your toddler opportunities to practice listening skills, you also help him learn emerging reading skills. As children learn to read, they need to be able to hear the differences in sounds letters make or how words sound the same when rhyming. This all starts with good listening skills you can help to develop as a toddler. Recite nursery rhymes or simple songs with your little one, and have him act them out with you. Teach him finger plays such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "Two Little Blackbirds" to keep him interested as you sing and rhyme together. Vary the way you sing songs, singing softly and then loudly or speaking quickly and then slowly, and ask him to point out the difference. As you read stories together, stress rhyming words, use different pitches or voices for different characters and point out sounds that are the same.

Modeling Listening

Toddlers will become better listeners if they have a model of what good listening looks like. According to HealthyChildren.org, when you are an active listener with your toddler, you will help him see that you want to communicate with him and you will show him the right way to listen. Make eye contact with your toddler when he is speaking to you, and give him your full attention. Even if you don't always understand what he is saying, respond with interest. Try to repeat back what he said to show you were listening and that you understand what he is trying to tell you. When he sees that you want to hear what he has to say, he will be encouraged to continue talking with you, helping him improve both his speaking and listening skills.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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